Emergency obstetric care provision in Southern Ethiopia: A facility-based survey

Mitchell Windsma, Tienke Vermeiden*, Floris Braat, Andualem Mengistu Tsegaye, Asheber Gaym, Thomas Van Den Akker, Jelle Stekelenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives To assess the provision of basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC), knowledge of high-risk pregnancies and referral capacity at health centres in Southern Ethiopia. Design A facility-based survey, using an abbreviated version of the Averting Maternal Death and Disability needs assessment tool for emergency obstetric and newborn care. Modules included infrastructure, staffing, number of deliveries, maternal and perinatal mortality, BEmONC signal functions, referral capacity and knowledge of risk factors in pregnancy. Setting Primary healthcare centres providing delivery services in the Eastern Gurage Zone, a predominantly rural area in Southern Ethiopia. Participants All 20 health centres in the study area were selected for the assessment. One was excluded, as no delivery services had been provided in the 12 months prior to the study. Results Three out of 19 health centres met the government's staffing norm. In the 12 months prior to the survey, 10 004 (X-=527±301) deliveries were attended to at the health centres, but none had provided all seven BEmONC signal functions in the three months prior to the survey (X-=3.7±1.2). Eight maternal and 32 perinatal deaths occurred. Most health centres had performed administration of parenteral uterotonics (17/89.5%), manual removal of placenta (17/89.5%) and neonatal resuscitation (17/89.5%), while few had performed assisted vaginal delivery (3/15.8%) or administration of parenteral anticonvulsants (1/5.3%). Reasons mentioned for non-performance were lack of patients with appropriate indications, lack of training and supply problems. Health workers mentioned on average 3.9±1.4 of 11 risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Five ambulances were available in the zone. Conclusion BEmONC provision is not guaranteed to women giving birth in health centres in Southern Ethiopia. Since the government aims to increase facility deliveries, investments in capacity at health centres are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere018459
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • emergency obstetric and neonatal care
  • health care facilities
  • manpower and services
  • maternal health services
  • maternal mortality
  • quality of Health care


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